Extra Help Unit
Consumer Focus has a duty under Section 13 of the CEAR Act to deal with cases where the consumer has been disconnected or has been threatened with disconnection, including prepayment off-supply cases. Consumer Focus also has powers under Section 12 to deal with energy or postal cases received from vulnerable consumers. The CEAR Act defines a vulnerable consumer as being someone that it is not reasonable to expect to pursue the complaint themselves.
A definition has been endorsed by the Consumer Focus Board which recognises that a consumer may be potentially vulnerable due to their personal circumstances and/or due to the urgency or complexity of their complaint.
In many situations the Citizens Advice consumer service would still be able to help potentially vulnerable consumers by:
- providing advice, using the empowerment arrangements to refer the consumer to an escalated team in the supplier, or
- by signposting the consumer to the Redress Scheme
There would however be situations where these options would not be appropriate, including where the consumer was unable to understand or act on the advice given and where a previous empowerment referral to the supplier had failed to resolve the issue.
Guidelines have been developed with the industry which will allow the Citizens Advice consumer service to transfer cases to the Consumer Focus’ ‘Extra Help’ unit where a consumer is not able to pursue their complaint with their supplier because of:
- The urgency of their situation eg debt collection action or unmanageable payment arrangement
- Their personal circumstances, whereby the consumer is unable to deal with the matter themselves
- The complexity of the problem, which makes it difficult for the consumer to deal directly with their supplier and requires expert help to resolve their problem
Although most of Consumer Focus’ cases will be referrals from the Citizens Advice consumer service, it will also be necessary to accept a small number of cases from other sources including:
- Referrals from Ofgem and Ofcom
- Referrals from the Redress Schemes
- MP complaints – Where a vulnerable constituent asks an MP, MSP or AM to deal with an energy or postal complaint. Cases can be referred to our Executive Liaison Team by the politician’s office. Contact the team for more information at email@example.com
Please note calls to the Extra Help Unit may be recorded for training purposes.
Complaints about the Extra Help Unit
Consumer Focus is fully committed to providing an effective and professional complaint handling service to energy and postal consumers across Great Britain and postal consumers in Northern Ireland. However, if you feel dissatisfied with the service you have received from our Extra Help Unit (EHU) or with the way that it has handled your complaint with your service provider we would like to hear from you. For information on our complaints procedure see Complaints against the EHU (PDF 151KB).